I have to be careful talking about Echopraxia, since it is intimately related to the event of Blindsight and I don’t what to piss off anyone with spoilers.
Blindsight details the experiences of a crew of astronauts investigating a spoopy device in the Oort Cloud and the mysterious entities dwelling within it.
Echopraxia concerns an out of work field biologist who through absurd chance ends up hitching a ride with a bunch of posthumans on a trip to find God at 1566 Icarus (an asteroid closely orbiting the Sun).
The title of each book refers to neurological phenomena. Blindsight is a form of brain damage where the subject responds to visual stimuli without consciously perceiving it. In theory blindsight could apply to other senses (a deaf person walking towards a sound that they do not consciusly percieve but unconsciously sense). Echopraxia is the involuntary mirroring of observed actions. No surprise that both books delve into the nature of intelligence, consciousness, and preception, reaching out with a tantilizing stroke before wrenching them by the balls.
Overall I would say that Blindsight is better written; the protagonist is more interesting and active and you know what the general plot is fairly early. Whereas in Echopraxia the protagonist is outright passive and you don’t know what the overarching objective is till about a third of the way through (I know I gave a brief statement on the plot above, but you are left guessing on what that statement even means. Plus, why would anyone look for God on an asteroid?)
Blindsight has probably my favorite conception of an alien lifeform to date. Peter Watts is a trained Marine Biologist and his grasp on evolution and adaptation shows. Said beings leave me feeling unsettled in a way I haven’t felt since House of Leaves.
I will commend Echopraxia for talking about faith and science in a wait that only made me grit my teeth once, which is quite the accomplishment. Echopraxia doesn’t put much effort in explaining what is going on, which partially is part of the point. The protagonist is a baseline human amongst a crew of genetically and cybernetically engineered posthumans; by comparison the protagonist is toddler amongst neurosurgeons, and just like the protagonist we are left in the dark to underlying conflicts until said conflicts explode in our face.
The anthropologist in me is intrigued by Watt’s Homo sapien vampiris, a cannabalistic offshoot of humanity brought back to life through the wonders of genetic reconstruction. Both books feature these creatures extensively. Normal I find vampire fiction painfully generic, but this is a joyful exception. So much about vampiris made evolutionary since that I had to remind myself that they do not exist. Imagine how spoopy that was for me.
Friends who would probably like these books: Samuel, Scott (maybe)